Reinstating a primary school teacher who was in danger of losing her job, the Supreme Court has affirmed that the law is not merciless.
" 'The law is merciless' is a most frequently quoted saying. We have become used to the understanding that such emotions as indignation, sorrow and compassion should not exist in legal cases, especially not in judiciary. This, in our view, is a misunderstanding," said a bench of Justice Tarun Chatterjee last week while reinstating primary school teacher D M Premkumari.
"The judiciary has a very strong sense of justice and it works to maintain social justice and fairness," observed the bench, which also included Justice H L Dattu, who added: "The judiciary, though, does not believe in misplaced sympathy."
Belonging to the backward Telugu Shetty caste entitled to reservations in state jobs, Premkumari secured the teacher's job in a government's primary school at Mysore in Karnataka in 1994 on the basis of quotas for marginalised sections of society.
But after examining her caste certificates, the district level government authorities in April 1996 asked her to quit the job saying she belonged to a different category of backward caste, which did not qualify for a quota in that particular job.
Premkumari challenged this order before Mysore's divisional commissioner, who dismissed her appeal in February 2000. But a single-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court set aside the divisional commissioner's order in 2003, asking Premkumari to continue in her job.
However, on an appeal by the state government, the high court's division bench ordered Premkumari's dismissal in 2006, prompting her to move the apex court.
While adjudicating Premkumari's appeal, the apex court held that the division bench's ruling was legally perfect and flawless, but that it was the single-bench judge's ruling which was more close to the notion of justice.
"It would not be desirable to decide this case on merit. If we do it, we might have to tell her to go out of employment. This, in our opinion, would cause great hardship and injustice to the appellant," the court said agreeing with her counsel P R Ramasesh that if she was dismissed from the job, her family members would have to lead a life of penury.
"If her appointment is struck down and if she is now asked to seek employment elsewhere, in our opinion, it would cause great hardship and injustice, for the reason that by now she must have crossed the upper age limit for seeking public employment and she may not get any employment anywhere," said the bench, letting her continue in her job.